The hidden power of smiling

Smiling dog

Almost every day, websites, newspapers, women magazines release “wellbeing” and “how to be happy” advices. Very popular themes. We probably glanced at one of those articles at least once in our lives. Some are real good; others are just a pretext to advertise a new product to buy. Yes, philanthropy has been superseded by capitalism in many areas.

I recently came accross an article that gives a simple and free advice on how to head towards fulfillment , and as I’ve experienced what this article is about, and experienced its benefit and sustainability, I want to share it with you.   

In The untapped power of smiling,Ron Gutman explains the power of smiling, and how this can change yours and others’ lives.

Smile is an international means of communication and one of the most basic, biologically uniform expressions of all humans. Smiles are cross-cultural and have the same meaning in different societies: whether you are in Europe or in a tribe in the Amazonian jungle. In 1967, Paul Ekman conducted studies in Papua New Guinea among the Fore tribe. Even if this tribe was totally disconnected and isolated from Western culture (Fore members’ were particularly known for their cannibalism rituals) – they attributed smiles to descriptions of situations in the same way you and I would. Smiling is commonly considered as an expression of joy and satisfaction.

Smiling makes me feel “lighter” but have never been able to say if it was an “impression” or if it actually happens. I found the answer to my question in this article.

In “the facial feedback response theory”, Charles Darwin explained that smiling is not only the result of us feeling good, but it also contributes to make us feel better. German researchers injected Botox to inhibit smiling muscles and used fMRI imaging to measure the brain activity before and after the injection. The results of the experiments showed that the facial movement modifies the neural processing of emotional content in the brain and were able to demonstrate that smiling stimulates the brain reward mechanism “in a way that even chocolate — a well-regarded pleasure inducer — cannot match.” (That is quite a good deal if I can be happier than when I eat chocolate without the inconvenient of putting on weight 🙂 )

Smiling is contagious. People I went to school or worked with say I am a smiley person. I do smile quite often and noticed how it positively influences my life. When I smile, people smile back and the same way, I cannot keep a straight face if someone genuinely smiles at me.

Based on the above example, once you raised a smile, the smiling effect keeps on rolling : You smile > You feel good > People smile back > Their turn to feel good…

I can give you a personal example to illustrate it. Not so long ago, we faced tough time at work. I had a chat with my boss to see the best way to overcome the challenges. Two days later, he thanked me for keeping smiling and being positive, saying that my smile kept the team going despite the turmoil. I will never forget, and consider this as the best advocate of a smile’s power. Smiling does not require much from you. In challenging time, smiling will have a much better impact than someone sulking and complaining. I do not live in Carebears world, and sometimes I feel more like punching my face against the wall than smiling but then I stop and realize that by making a small effort, I can get where I want in a less painful way for me and people around.  

If you are still doubtful about the benefits of smiling, a Penn State University study revealed that when you smile you not only appear to be more likable, but you also give the impression of being more competent. Well…If I were a recruiter, I do not want a person to look competent; I want the person to be competent. So, the way I read it is that one would probably not get a job only by smiling but may have more chances to go through the full recruiting process than others who do not smile. 🙂

 So Keep Smiling !

PS 1: I included a link with Ron Gutman’s speech at TED.

PS 2 : The picture in this post. It is Riley “the smiley dog”. The cutest I have ever seen!


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